Friday, May 2, 2014

Friday Favorites: Reading for Your Weekend



Welcome to the first edition of "Friday Favorites: Reading for Your Weekend." You know those posts you scroll by throughout the week that look interesting but you don't really have time to read them at the moment? Well the weekend is the perfect time to catch up on reading all those wonderful blog posts that you missed during the week. Every Friday I will compile a list of my favorite blog reads from the week for your weekend reading enjoyment!


The first one comes from Christie Sampieri Elkins over at "Letters From The Nest." I just discovered her blog recently and I am loving it. In her latest post, she shares with us her response to that never-ending question,  Are You Having More Children?

Another great read comes from "Little Natural Cottage", about who's job it actually is to take out the trash! The answer may surprise you! (Note: I don't necessarily endorse all things written in the book the blogger links to, but the point made here is a good one!)

Struggling with contentment? Here's 10 ways thrifty people stay content.


And, just in case you missed it, don't miss reading all about why I love living in a house that's too small for us!
10 Ways Thrifty People Stay Content And On Track Financially - See more at: http://snailpacetransformations.com/2014/04/25/10-ways-thrifty-people-stay-content-and-on-track-financially/#sthash.yMenk2oz.dpuf
10 Ways Thrifty People Stay Content And On Track Financially - See more at: http://snailpacetransformations.com/2014/04/25/10-ways-thrifty-people-stay-content-and-on-track-financially/#sthash.yMenk2oz.dpuf

Have a great weekend, and happy reading!

Did you read something great during the week? Share it in the comments section below!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Home Small Home: Why I Love Living In a House That's Too Small For Us.

 (This picture is not my home, it's a random picture I found. But it's cute!)

Our home is "too small" for us, and that's just the way I like it! No, really, I'm not just saying that to make myself feel better about not having a larger space right now, I really mean it! It's a funny thing, but the larger our family has grown, the smaller our homes have gotten. We certainly didn't plan it that way, it's just how things worked out each time we moved.

We are currently in a time of transition and the house we are living in is a rental. I am eager to own again, but I am now realizing how grateful I am that we needed to wait, because if we were able to buy 6 months ago, we would have felt the need to buy way too much space. We are a family of 6, living in a modest, 3 bedroom, 2 bath house with a great room and an eat-in kitchen. When we found this house I thought, "Yeah, this will be good for now." I use the words "for now" quite often. I really thought that we could do fine for a while here, but that when we eventually buy again, we would definitely need a dining room, office/homeschool room, and another bedroom. I wanted atleast another 500-1000sf more living space. Not anymore. In fact, I really think that I would turn down almost any house that was much bigger than this one. Here's why and what I have learned:

An Open Floor Plan is Key.
This is the factor that will often determine whether your home feels spacious or cramped. Living space that openly flows from room to room will make it feel much larger than it is. I may not have a formal living room or even a dining room, but our current home with the open concept is much more suited for day to day life and for entertaining than our previous one with multiple closed-off spaces.

Multiple bedrooms are not Absolutely Necessary.
Sure, if the right house came along and there were 4 bedrooms, instead of the 3 we have now, that would be a bonus. But honestly, when  it come to children, there are only 2 kinds: boys and girls. So as long as your bedrooms are large enough, 3 is all you really need; boy's room, girl's room, and Mom and Dad's room. Bunk beds are great, of course, as are trundle beds. Even if there are large age gaps between some of your children it can still work. While it is not ideal for a 12 year old to share a room with a 2 year old, big kid stuff can be put up high on shelves or in a closet, while little kid stuff can be kept more accessible. Siblings will develop great bonds and memories while sharing a bedroom, especially when there is a large age gap and the time while the oldest and the youngest are still both living in the house is short.

I don't need a homeschool room, it just gets messy!
The same can also be said even for a dining room. These are the kinds of rooms where it is too easy to walk away and leave a mess behind you. When all you have is an eat-in kitchen and that is also where your school work and crafts are taking place, you have no choice but to consistently be cleaning it up. There are no "extra" rooms to stash stuff either, letting clutter develop behind a door that you close when company comes over. Not that I have EVER done that ;)

Easier to clean all around!
I am amazed at how fast we can get this house cleaned up. Not only are there not many rooms that need cleaning, but since we are using all of the rooms all of the time, they are constantly getting picked up. The rooms are not given a chance to get too messy because all the space needs to be usable. I have many friends and family that live in much larger homes than I do and I used to hope for a home like theirs. Now whenever I visit (although I still think their homes are beautiful) all I can think is, "Who has the time to clean all of this?!"  Less time for clean-up = more time for fun. And sleep :)

The bigger the house, the bigger the bills.
I would rather live in a small house while enjoying more financial freedom, than have it the other way around.

You can't get away from each other!
I know that some would consider this a negative, but I consider it a plus..... most of the time ;) When you are living in closer quarters, it's inevitable that you are going to spend much more quality time together.

I recently read this wonderful blog post about a family of 11 living in an 1100sf home! That's smaller than what we are living in now and there are only 6 of us! The author brings us inside her beautiful home and shows us how they make it work! Her home organization is very inspiring.

Do you live in a home that yourself or others view as too small for your family? What are some ways that you have made the space work for you?

    Thursday, February 27, 2014

    How Did I Miss It? I've Been Here The Whole Time!

    "It's been a year already, and I missed the whole thing!" That's what I said last week when we were celebrating our baby girl's birthday. The youngest of our 4 children (who I refer to as Petunia here in my noisy corner of the blogosphere) turned 1 last week and I really do feel like I missed the whole year. No, I was not working another job, too involved in activities, or backpacking across Europe. I was here, doing my mommy, wife, and homeschooling thing. Every. Day. I know that time whizzes by fast, and that everything always seems like a blur, but this feeling of  "missing it" feels like more than just time flying.

    I suppose it would be easy for me to chalk it up to our absolutely crazy year. We moved across the country just 3 weeks after Petunia was born, and then we moved again just shy of 6 months later. Now that story is a whole series of blog posts within itself! I plan to tell you all about it soon, I'm honestly still processing it myself ;) So every time I talk about how I feel like I missed it, everyone is quick to point to this crazy year. But it's simply not true. Well, maybe it's partially true, but this isn't the first time I have felt this way. I feel this way about all of my children and their "baby year" as I like to call it. I am willing to bet (and really hoping) that I am not the only one who feels this way. Anyone else have that guilty, "bad mom" syndrome come on you when you have to dig out the baby pictures to remind yourself what it was like?

    Here's what I think a big part of the problem is: We are all too busy planning and reaching for the future, thinking about the next step, that we are neglecting the now. Sure, we think, things are fine for now, but it will be much better in a few years. It will be much better when we own a house, or have a bigger house with a large backyard for the kids and a garden, or can put on that bedroom addition. We will be happier when we get that raise, or are able to work just one job instead of 3, and have all the debt paid off. Then we will be happy; then we can relax and live. Then we can really start enjoying life. But the truth is, "then" never really comes. Sure we may accomplish the things that are on our list right now, but what we do we do? We add to it. We are always striving for the next step, and that's ok. That's great actually! We should always be moving forward, but when looking toward the future inhibits our ability to be content with and enjoy the now... when it inhibits our ability to be in the present, that's where the problem lies.

    I think that a big part of the reason why memories seem fuzzy and I feel like I missed it is because, in a way, I did. I know that I was there, no one else cleaned the poop off the wall, that was ALLLLL me! But my mind was somewhere else. I resolve to be present, in both body and mind. I will strive to be fully invested in "the now", because "the now" is all we really have. When the next birthday comes around, instead of wondering how I missed it, I will be able to say, "Wow, that went fast! Awesome year, I should know, I was totally there!"

    Monday, February 24, 2014

    Consistently Inconsistent

    There are many things that I struggle with, but if I were to choose just one thing that irritates me the most, it would be my inconsistency. I am consistently inconsistent! I always have been. When I was a kid, I tried more extra-curricular activities than I can remember: ballet, tap, acrobatics, karate, basketball, choir (I actually stuck with that one for a while), cheer-leading, majorettes, color guard, Brownies, violin..... there were probably others. With almost every one, the novelty wore off and I quit. Then there were my childhood report cards. Remember the ones that didn't come with actual grades, but rather "S" for Satisfactory or "E" for Excellent? Well, I received a lot of "I's" for INCONSISTENT!

    I wish I could say that my inconsistent nature has changed, but it really hasn't. Why, you ask, is this one of the things that irritates me the most about myself? Surely there are a plethora of other sins that I deal with on a daily basis that can be much more serious than inconsistency, right? Yes, there are plenty of other sin areas that could use work, but this area affects so many aspects of my life. It affects my home, my family and most importantly, my relationship with God. When you have an inconsistent nature, you are surely not going to be naturally consistent with your prayer life and time spent in the Word. That should be our starting point, and if we are not even consistent with our starting point, then how are we to expect that we are going to be consistent with anything else?  I find it difficult to be consistent with everything from housework, to homeschool (even the curriculum I use), to projects and even methods of disciplining my children! This can make for a very chaotic household and for kids that feel unsettled. One day, I was getting ready to implement yet another new schedule for our household. I always have good intentions, I really wanted it to work! I sat the kids down to let them know that we would be starting with a new kind of schedule in the morning and my oldest daughter says to me (respectfully, but honestly), "Yeah, but it only ever lasts for a few days and then we stop." Ouch! They're on to me!

    "Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1Cor 15:58).  Here, at face value, we are being told to spread the Gospel, for that is our most important work, but earlier in 1Corinthians, we are told that all of our work and everything we do is to be done to the honor and glory of God (1Cor 10:31). This verse tells us to be steadfast in our work. To be steadfast means to be firmly fixed or constant, unwavering, not subject to change. I want to be steadfast in the work of the Lord; steadfast in spreading the Gospel, steadfast in my pursuit of a relationship with Him and steadfast in the work that He has given me to do in my home and with my family.

    Now, as I mentioned, my inconsistent nature has not changed. I have to fight every day with it. But my desire to conquer it is strong and each day I am winning more of the battles than the day before. Here are a few things that have worked the best for me as I learn to be more consistent:

    Get Consistent With Your Prayer Life First
    It is only through prayer and God's grace that we can be consistent with anything! If you are having trouble being consistent and you are not already consistent with your prayer life and time in the Word, then this is where you need to begin! This is where you can ask Him to help you in this area!

    Set Realistic Expectations
    Sure, I know that you would probably like to be diligent and consistent in your prayer life, your housework, homeschool, discipline methods, projects that you start, exercises, daily schedules that you make, everything! But start small. Decide on one or two important areas that you are going to be diligent and consistent with and focus on those things. It could be as simple as deciding that you are going to put a load of laundry in the wash, then the dryer, then fold or hang everything and put it away. Everyday. Consistently. Or maybe you decide that you are going to sign up for that Zumba class and that you are going to commit to go every week, consistently, for the entire two month session that you signed up for. Whatever you choose, just keep it simple and use it as an exercise in consistency. Practice makes perfect and soon you will find it easier to remain more consistent in all areas of your life.  

    Keep Yourself Accountable
    Find yourself an accountability buddy, preferably one that doesn't already struggle in this area. Nothing says failure like two inconsistent people pledging to be consistent to keep each other accountable in being consistent ;)

    Make Inconsistency Inconvenient 
    If possible, try and make it really difficult for yourself not to remain consistent. For years I had been committing and re-committing to lessen the amount of TV that we all watch in this household. I was not consistent with this. I would keep the TV off for a few days, and then one day I would wake up and fall right back into the familiar pattern of flicking it on and letting my kids sit in front of it for way too long. Until I made it really inconvenient for us to do so. Out of desperation to be consistent in our resolve to lesson time spent in front of the TV, we got rid of it! Well.... not completely, but we did move it out of the living room and now whenever we want to watch something, we have to carry it in and hook it all up. Furthermore, we have arranged the living room in a way that when we do have the TV out, it's in a really annoying spot and I don't want it to stay in the room after we are done watching it. I was finally able to remain consistent in this decision because it is now very inconvenient not to be!

    Do you struggle with inconsistency? What are some ways you have found that helped you to be more consistent?

    Monday, February 17, 2014

    Getting to the Heart of Gossip

    I have a confession to make. A few weeks ago, I made an assumption about someone I know. I then shared that assumption with my husband. Last week, I realized that my assumption may not have been so accurate. I asked God to forgive me, as well as let my husband know that I may be wrong and that it was wrong of me to jump to conclusions. But it got me to thinking.... was making an assumption the only thing that I did wrong here, or is there something more?

    When most of us think about gossip, we picture women maliciously whispering, spreading around juicy secrets or even flat-out lies. Unless we are one of these people who can't keep our mouth shut and just love to talk about other people's lives (and especially their misfortunes), then we usually don't consider ourselves gossipers. I never have considered myself one. I try my best to keep my nose out of other people's business and I respect the secrets that my friends have shared with me. But I think there is more to it than that.  I think that we have made exceptions the the rule of gossip in order to justify our human tendencies to be blabbermouths. 

    "Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered" (Proverbs 11:13) This verse is about gossip, and that was exactly what I was doing, even if I wasn't willing to admit it at first. Whether it is a secret that has been shared with you, something you saw, heard or discovered, or even a conclusion you jumped to all on your own about something; when you share that with anyone else, knowing that you wouldn't be sharing it if the person who was the subject of the discussion was present, then it is gossip.

    If we were to actually make a written ammendment to that verse in Proverbs that would reflect our views on gossip, I think it might read something like this:

    Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.... unless you are just sharing it with your husband, because after all, you two are one. Or if you are venting to your mom about someone that did you wrong, I mean....she's your mom. Or if the secret you are keeping is just driving you nuts and you HAVE to tell somebody so that you don't explode. No one would want you to explode. Lastly, it's not necessary to keep a thing covered when you are in the company of your prayer group....sharing secrets with them will just mean more prayers for your troubled friend!
     
    We do a pretty good job of covering our sins don't we? We can even make them look all nice and spiritual. But sin is sin. Gossip is gossip, no matter who we are talking to or for what purpose. Now I know that there are always exceptions to the rule, for instance, when someone's safety is concerned. But even in those cases, have you confronted the person directly with your concern for them first? Are you going directly to a source of help for this person? Or are you just chatting about it with your mutual friends? We need to think and pray on these things hard.

    "To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people" (Titus 3:2). Let us pray daily and ask God to help us keep our big blabbermouths shut!
      
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    Thursday, February 13, 2014

    Words of Love: Pin a Heart on Your Sibling

    My kids love each other, I know that they do. I just wish that they would show it a little more often. So today, in the name of Valentine's Day, we are going to work on that. I picked up these cute, heart-shaped little sticky notes. I am going to hand them out to the kids and have them write positive attributes about each other on them and then stick them on each other. Hopefully, the end result is a bunch of giggly children covered head-to-toe in words of love from each other.

    What are you doing special with your family today?

    Wednesday, February 12, 2014

    Peppermint Mocha Pick-Me-Up

    It's that time of day again. I don't know about you, but every day around 2 or 3 o'clock I start to drag. I just don't know how I am going to get through the rest of the day. Well, I have discovered the cure for this mid-day drag, and the best thing about it is it only takes a few ingredients and they are easy to keep on hand all the time. I call it: The Peppermint Mocha Pick-Me-Up!

    Here's what you will need:
    • Your favorite coffee mug (actually, any 'ol mug will do, but it tastes even better in your favorite one)
    • Coffee 
    • 1 heaping tsp of cocoa powder
    • 1 peppermint (the little, round, red & white ones that come individually wrapped are perfect. If it's near the holidays, 1/4 of a candy cane works great too. In fact, that's what I had on hand when I originally brewed up this concoction)
    • Cream and Sugar to your taste

    Directions: Put your cocoa powder, peppermint and sugar in the bottom of your mug. Brew you cup of coffee like you normally do and pour in you mug. Stir until your mint is dissolved, then add your cream or milk. Adding the cream after ensures that your coffee stays hot enough to melt your mint. If you want to get extra fancy, I suppose you could add whipped cream. I never have, simply because I never have it on hand, but if I did.... I would :)

     Viola! You have just created an expensive-tasting coffee house treat for a fraction of the cost. Pretty simple, huh? This also works well as an attitude adjuster for first thing in the morning if you happen to wake up completely grumpy and resentful of the fact that you are out of bed..... not that I ever feel that way ;)